Throughout the decades, the social significance of black hairstyles has remained a relevant part of black history. Unlike other American cultural trends, black hairstyles represent a significant history and pride amongst black women. Where else does one’s self worth and self image play such a high role in society? When black women enter the salon for a new hairdo, many times they must look at the “whole picture”; considering the social message that they will be sending when walking out of the salon and into black society.
Since the 1400’s, when slaves were brought to the “New World," they were made to change their hairstyles to more traditional European standards. This included the use of herbs and botanicals that relaxed their coarse hair, giving the appearance of finer hair. Throughout slave times, black women grown accustomed to their European counterparts wore their hair straightened, combed, and parted. Since that time, black women have often been ridiculed for their choices regarding their hair.
In modern day times, black women must choose to conform to Western society and their hairstyles or go for the more natural look. During the late sixties, the “Afro” and more traditional ways of wearing one’s hair made a debut. The image of freedom and pride led the movement for the El Natural look. But it was just that, a trend, that came and went; and in the near future; will most likely come again. However, since that time, more black women have opted for hairstyles that are “Americanized” and project the societal views of beautiful hair. Nothing is more evident of this trend than the huge amounts of money spent yearly on black hairstyles at various salons.
Today, a black woman may spend hundreds of dollars at a salon every week, striving to achieve that perfect hairstyle. Even in the poorest of neighborhoods, hair salons and barbershops that cater to black hair are still thriving. So are these black women abandoning their cultural history and giving into the white man’s ways? Most black women say “no”, it’s not a matter of history or culture, but a matter of looking good and feeling good about one’s self.